What Is a Dissertation Paper?

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A dissertation paper is that long piece of academic writing that students often dread. It is based on original research and is part of a Ph.D. or master’s degree. However, it sometimes is also part of a bachelor’s degree.

Your dissertation will likely be the most extended paper you have ever written, and it can be incredibly intimidating to start. This article will discuss everything you need to know about your dissertation.

What Exactly Is a Dissertation?What Exactly Is a Dissertation?

A dissertation report is a lengthy academic paper. Typically between 100-200 pages, it is written by students to complete their postgraduate studies by further promoting their field through a structured research project.

A dissertation consists of three main components:

1. An introduction that lays out the thesis statement and mentions the purpose of the paper

2. A body part where you include all the evidence (research, experiments, figures, etc.) to support your thesis statement

3. A conclusion that wraps up the paper by summarizing the study and restating the thesis statement

What Types of Dissertations Are There?

What Types of Dissertations Are There?

It is essential that before you even decide upon the topic, to be aware of the type of dissertation you will be conducting your study in. Here, we will talk about the three main types of dissertation research to help you get started:


This type of research is more non-number-based data collected through a series of interviews, participant observations, and focus groups. Essentially, it mirrors the qualitative research a candidate carries out throughout their studies.

The data you plan on collecting will model your dissertation paper and determine whether it should follow the qualitative method. Within a qualitative dissertation research model, you can pursue one or more of the following:

  • Case Study Research
  • Autoethnography
  • Narrative Research
  • Grounded Theory

To develop a qualitative dissertation, the type of research often follows an emergent design- the content and research strategy change over time. Research paradigms are also used to strategize the best way to collect and present the findings.

The researchers still need to use rubrics to assess the quality of their findings, even if they aren’t number-based. Instead, data is collected according to dependability, transferability, and validity.

Good examples for pursuing a qualitative dissertation include education or psychology, depending on the essence of the research. You can consist of case studies, personal findings, narratives, and abstracts.


This type of dissertation research focuses on numerical data. Candidates integrate quantitative research methods to collect data that can easily be categorized and analyzed.

Aside from the usual statistical data observations, quantitative research also focuses on specific research-based strategies determined by the type of research questions adopted.

You can focus your work on testing existing theories or create your own original approach. You may also employ theory-driven research, replication-based studies, and data-driven dissertations.

Some of the designs quantitative researchers focus on descriptive, experimental, or relationship-based techniques. Data collection includes questionnaires and surveys, structured interviews and observations, data sets, and laboratory-centered methods.

When it’s time to assess the quality of the data, quantitative researchers measure their results against criteria that include reliability, external/internal validity, and construct validity.

Having options to present their findings, quantitative researchers can use graphs, tables, and analytical statements to convey their research.


The third method is a hybrid model that incorporates both qualitative and quantitative research techniques. While mixed-method research models are relatively new, they are gaining popularity.

This approach offers candidates the best of both worlds: credibility and versatility. This strategy is comprehensive, allowing for broader data input and a more general presentation optimization range.

The more common pattern followed for this type of research method is when the candidates first collect and categorize quantitative data.

Then, they’ll turn to qualitative measures to analyze the data and draw meaningful conclusions, which are then relayed to their committee panel.

However, this dissertation research method is not without its risks. You can always be on the brink of widening the scope of your research topic so much that you are unable to reach coherent, sustainable conclusions.

For this reason, it is crucial to outline your research goals and strategy early on in the dissertation process. This way, the techniques you use can be thoroughly examined to collect your data.

How Long Is the Average Dissertation Paper?

How Long Is the Average Dissertation Paper?

As we mentioned initially, a dissertation paper is usually around 100-200 pages. On average, the length of a dissertation paper should be at least 90 pages and at most 200 pages (or mainly between 50,000 words to 100,000 words).

This word count includes appendices but excludes references, bibliography, and footnotes.

In addition to this, the length of the report depends on guidelines provided by the faculty and the professor. Factors such as the field of study, methods of data collection, and personal writing style are also determining points.

Research shows that STEM dissertation papers have an average length of about 159 pages. In comparison, non-STEM dissertation papers average length of approximately 223 pages.

How Long Is a Dissertation Chapter?

How Long Is a Dissertation Chapter?

Dissertation papers consist of chapters where each chapter is a separate section that addresses something specific. So, how long is a dissertation in every section? Here, we provide a rough estimate.


This section focuses on the importance of the topic, including relevant facts and why you chose this particular topic. Thus, the introduction covers about 10-15 pages which are perfect for mentioning everything concisely.

Literature Review

Including only sources that can be used to write the dissertation, this part is where you analyze all the content you have chosen for your paper. You examine and single out the strengths and weaknesses of your chosen sources.

The literature review is about 20 to 25 pages long.


The methodology entails the methods used to carry out the research. You discuss the specific method and data selection processes used in it, ranging from 10 to 15 pages in length.

The challenges encountered while conducting the research can also be included in this section and ways of contacting the sample population along with the gathered data.


The results section of a dissertation paper should not exceed 10 pages. Here, research findings are mentioned, along with hypotheses. You can state whether they were refuted or confirmed.

It presents the list and clarification of the obtained datasets. This section should also include a conclusion about all the progress so far in your research process.


Also known as the discussion section, this part should be between 15 to 20 pages. You provide the current and hopeful, bigger picture regarding your research and explain the implications of your research.

How to Write a Dissertation Paper?

How to Write a Dissertation Paper?

Write a proposal

First and foremost, you need to write a dissertation proposal to persuade the committee members about the topic. You need to prove you have chosen a topic that provides valuable, exciting, and complex answers for your final dissertation project.

While a shorter paper than the dissertation paper, it is equally as essential and lays out the structure of your research project. It can adopt the following format:

  • Title
  • Objectives- Narrow it down to 3 or so objectives
  • Literature- Areas of study, schools of thought, and other sources you are going to use in the paper
  • Research- Elaboration of the main ideas of your research question
  • Methodology- Entail methods of data collection
  • Potential Results- What you tentatively expect from the findings you will conduct
  • Timeframe- A Gantt chart that lays out how you will manage each stage of your project in a specific timeframe
  • List of References

Conduct thorough research 

This is followed by carrying out research for your dissertation in an organized and effective manner to avoid wasting time. This part will determine the overall development of your project. Here are a few tips to speed up this process:

1. Put a timeframe on the research stage.

It’s good to find enough resources and develop the ideas of your chosen topic, but at some point, you will need to stop researching. You don’t want to confuse yourself or your readers.

Make a timeline and stay committed to following it.

2. Look for sources in the right places.

Not everything you read on the internet is accurate or factual. Avoid Wikipedia and resort to Google Scholar to access published articles and datasets of well-known journals and books.

Visit libraries and ask the librarian to provide you with relevant and exciting publications.

3. Organize

Make notes, or else you will end up extremely confused. You won’t even comprehend where to apply your essential arguments. Keep a lab notebook that you update weekly with your findings.

4. Write your dissertation paper

What follows the research is the act of composing your dissertation paper- the final product of all your efforts.

The format of each chapter was already mentioned in the subsection “How long is a dissertation paper?”. You can refer back to it as a guide on the structure of your paper.

5. Edit and proofread your dissertation over and over again

After completing your first draft, you can take a few days off to relax to clear your mind before you come back to edit it so that you can recognize most of its flaws.

Editing requires time- be patient and stay committed until you are 100% confident in your work.

Pay attention to your logic, how it connects your arguments, the lengthy details that can be conveyed more concisely, and the authenticity of your data and references.

And then, proofread. Look out for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Read each sentence word by word, and use a dictionary whenever you doubt. Do not forgo the complex, nitpicky parts of writing your dissertation paper.

6. Get Feedback

Ask a fellow colleague to go through your work. Entertain their opinions and suggestions on how you can improve your work.

Consult your mentor. They will suggest which areas to improve on and guide you on how to finalize the process before presenting it to the committee.

Writing a dissertation paper is not easy, so it is essential to step by step and believe in your ability to categorize and power through. It can be gratifying and a critical part of your educational journey.

What is the Difference Between a Dissertation and a Research Paper?

What is the Difference Between a Dissertation and a Research Paper?

One of the main differences between a dissertation and a research paper is the word count. A research paper is relatively short, whereas a dissertation is an extended written treatment of a subject.

A research paper is typically between 1500-3000 words. As we know, a dissertation paper mainly has a word count range of 50,000 words to 100,000 words.

Often, with a dissertation, you will not be given a targeted word count like you are with a research paper and will continue developing your research until you have covered everything.

You are usually steered towards what to write about in a research paper. In contrast, the reins are entirely in your own hands with a dissertation. You get to choose your topic, develop your own thesis, and are responsible for all aspects of your dissertation.

The length and level of work required are two of the main factors we can tell the difference between a research paper and a dissertation.

What is the Difference Between a Dissertation and a Thesis?

What is the Difference Between a Dissertation and a Thesis?

Dissertation vs. thesis: what actually is the difference? The degree programs that require these projects set a dissertation and a thesis apart. A thesis is written by students in a master’s degree program. In contrast, students in a doctoral degree program will write a dissertation.

A dissertation usually requires an oral defense, but a thesis does not. The students of doctoral degree programs are scheduled for oral presentations in front of the dissertation committees of their completed dissertation.

The committee asks questions and can pose challenges. The students have to justify their research structure and the interpretation of their results.

A master’s thesis is much shorter than a doctoral dissertation. A thesis might be between 40 to 80 pages, while a dissertation is around 100-300 pages.

A dissertation allows you to contribute new knowledge to your field of study. At the same time, a thesis makes sure you understand what you have studied in your program and how to apply it.

Wrapping things up: What is a dissertation paper?

In short, a dissertation can prove to be one of the most challenging, lengthy, and time-consuming projects you will perhaps ever encounter. But it is equally as rewarding, especially if you are passionate about your field of study.

A dissertation is a process that poses you to ask questions about a specific topic, undertake its relevant research, and then answer these questions. Therefore, you need to focus on producing an academically sound and rigorous piece of work.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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